Marrakech resigns and Madrid will host the UNWTO General Assembly


The UNWTO has communicated on its website that the General Assembly, scheduled between November 30 and December 3, will take place in Madrid, although on Friday it had not yet updated the data on the web. The organization has communicated the change only to its members, ignoring the media.

Madrid is the world headquarters of the organization and will host the assembly after Morocco has communicated the decision to suspend it for reasons related to COVID-19 and the fear of a new wave.

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the UNWTO, which meets every two years to approve its budget and its work program and which, every four years, elects the Secretary General

In this meeting continuity as general secretary will be ratified until 2025 of the Georgian Zurab Pololikashvili, which had already been decided in the Executive Council last January, although with much criticism. At least ratification is what is supposed to happen if no country decides to present an alternative candidate.

The assembly’s agenda is set in advance, but any member country could request the inclusion of a new point, in the same assembly, and that proposal would be voted in favor or against because the assembly is sovereign. You can download the provisional agenda of the assembly here:

Provisional Agenda of the UNWTO General Assembly 2021

“The Moroccan government has informed the UNWTO secretariat that the evolution of the current world situation, linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, does not allow the holding of the 24th session of the General Assembly in Marrakech (…) in conditions that guarantee the necessary health and safety conditions for the participants, “he explains in an email sent to the UNWTO member countries.

UNWTO currently has 159 members, compared to the 193 that the UN has, an organization of which it is an agency. The United States left the UNWTO in 1995, Belgium in 1997, the United Kingdom in 2009, Canada in 2012 and Australia in 2014. Added to this is the absence of Ireland, New Zealand, Luxembourg and all the Nordic countries: Iceland, Norway , Sweden, Finland and Denmark, plus two Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia.

Current UNWTO headquarters in Madrid.

Report to the sector

In the report on the sector that the Secretary General will present to the assembly, he highlights that international tourist movements fell 73% in 2020, reaching figures from 30 years ago, with which between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs were at risk.

In the first five months, international tourist arrivals fell by 85%, although confidence is slowly recovering according to the UNWTO Group of Experts, the report notes.

This assembly was initially presented more intense than others due to the possibility that Saudi Arabia would present its proposal to host the UNWTO world headquarters, which has been in Madrid since the establishment of this United Nations agency in 1975, but finally that country gave up after intervening by cutting off the maneuvers the UN Secretary General himself, Antonio Guterres, as we explained in Riyadh, resigns, forced by the UN, to take away the UNWTO headquarters from Madrid.

Here you can download the report of the Secretary General to the Assembly in pdf:

Secretary-General’s report to the UNWTO General Assembly on tourism

An “unfriendly” gesture

The Spanish government assured that it would be “an unfriendly gesture” from Saudi Arabia and the Executive launched a discreet and effective plan to deactivate that possibility, without publicly discrediting Secretary General Pololikashvili who, according to all sources, was in favor of replacing Madrid for Riyadh.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, assured that “it would not only be a challenge to the host country, but to the world system and the balance of the United Nations”

And incidentally, it should be said, an operation that would discredit the UN agency itself, taking into account that Saudi Arabia opened up to international leisure tourism – non-religious – in September 2019 and she has a long way to go on the fundamental issues of human rights, women’s equality, labor rights and everything that has to do with a democratic regime.

Albares and the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, announced on September 15 that the organization would stay in Spain and would have a new headquarters in the Palacio de Congresos de Madrid, which would be operational in 2024. This was one of the arguments put forward by the supporters of the transfer to Riyadh, the alleged lack of interest of the Spanish Government to take care of the only United Nations agency based in Spain.

It was precisely during the visit to that future headquarters that the friction between the secretary general and the Spanish authorities was staged, at he did not appear at the announced press conference and thus continue to avoid questions from journalists (see: Pololikashvili does not cut the rumors about the change of headquarters of the UNWTO).

Ministers Summit in London

Taking advantage of the dates of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, on November 2 the UNWTO has organized a “Summit of ministers”, in collaboration with the fair and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

According to the UNWTO website, “the Summit is the main annual meeting of Tourism Ministers and will take place on Tuesday, November 2 during the WTM in London, the most important global event for the tourism sector. Ministers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and experts are invited to participate “

This meeting will be open to all those who have been accredited to attend the WTM. Under the generic title of “Investing in the sustainable future of tourism”, it will take place on the Global Stage of the WTM in London on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm.